I am writing this post as the wind and rain lashes at my windows. Only yesterday, I was barbecuing in the garden on a perfect summer evening, whilst just a week ago, I was picnicking in balmy sunshine at Lytham’s Fairhaven Lake.
But now it's a wet and windy Sunday afternoon at the start of September, and millions of households will be feeling a strong sense that summer has come to an end. School bags are being packed, pencil cases checked, name tapes sewn into clothing, clean white shirts and blouses taken out of wardrobes. Even in households with no children (or teachers) many will be contemplating a return to work after the summer break. It's time to resume our routines: Farewell, summer days.
In France, this sense is far stronger. It's a season: la Rentrée. Magazines, newspapers and lifestyle websites in France are full of articles about how to cope with la Rentrée. People wish each other a “Bonne Rentrée”, meaning good wishes for a fresh start in life, work and everything.
For me, this will be the first time since 1962 that I have not started September by embarking on a new academic year. I have retired from my work as a schoolteacher, and so will not be going back to work this week. Yet I still feel, and always have felt, that September feels more like the New Year than the real New Year in January. I suppose this is because I am the son of a teacher, and although I am now retired, my wife and son are teachers, my younger daughter is a welfare assistant in a primary school and my older daughter is a university administrator. So my life is still shaped by the pattern of the academic year, and I have even bought myself a new academic year appointments diary, not least because my old one ran out on August 31st.
September has far more of a sense of change and new beginning than January. Days are noticeably shorter, nights are colder and as has happened today, the weather often turns cold, wet and windy. The sense of change is palpable, far more so than at the change from December to January. Going back to work, school, or university, or even starting a life of retirement as summer turns to autumn, brings with it a sense of renewal, fresh start and resolution. Even the football season is but young, and the sense of hope and optimism felt by every fan in the august sunshine has not yet been deflated by too many defeats.
May I wish all who read this a successful, fulfilling, and above all happy “Rentrée” and I hope that you are buoyed and not depressed by the prospect of cosy evenings by the fire and a new series of Strictly.
Here's a playlist to suit the season, including the one I chose as the title of this post: Going Back, by the incomparable Dusty Springfield: